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The Beginning After by Kiersten Modglin (37)

Forty-Four

PEIGHTON

“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” Peighton screamed into the phone, driving twenty miles per hour over the speed limit on her way to the airport. Her heart pounded as she pieced every bit of the story together.

Beelzebub. Beasley. Todd had always called Frank ‘Beezle.’ The 9677 was a play on Frank’s birthday: July 7th, 1969. She cursed herself, slamming her hand into the steering wheel. How could she have been so stupid? All the late nights and business trips together, the fact that she’d never, not even once, seen Frank with a woman. Frank was always a weird part of their marriage, but to be honest she’d always thought it was her that he wanted.

“Hello?” Clay answered finally.

“Where are you? Has Kyle gotten on the plane yet?”

“Yeah, I’m leaving the airport now. What’s wrong?”

“Dammit!” she screamed, her insides twisting in turmoil. “You have to stop the plane!”

“I can’t stop the plane, Peighton. It’s already gone. What’s happening?”

“It’s Frank. You were right. It’s Frank. Beelzebub is Frank. Frank and Todd were together all along. Lovers. He called him ‘Wonder’ in the messages. It was Todd’s nickname. Frank killed Todd. And Sarah. And Drew.” She panted, forcing the words out.

Seeming to make sense of all that she was saying, he spoke with urgency. “Peighton, are you sure?”

“Yes. I’m sure.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m almost to the airport.”

“Get here. We’re going to beat the plane.”

“Beat the plane?”

“I’m calling for backup. He can’t get ahold of Kyle.”

The line went dead as Peighton pulled into the airport. She drove aimlessly, parking in a place that wasn’t a parking spot as soon as she saw Clay. She leapt from the car, rushing toward him and collapsing in her arms. “We have…to…stop him…he’s going…to hurt…Kyle.”

He grasped her shoulders. “Calm down. Come on, I have a cruiser waiting for us. My department has contacted the New Orleans police. They’ll be waiting for Kyle at the airport. Frank won’t get his hands on him.”

She nodded, though what he was saying only brought her a tiny bit of relief. He ushered her into the police car that waited for them, another officer in the driver’s seat.

“Step on it,” Clay directed, and the car lurched forward, the sirens going. She leaned over, pressing her forehead onto the window as if she could get to him faster that way.

“Should we try to call Kyle?”

“We don’t want to scare him. He’ll have his phone turned off anyway. Let’s just get there first.”

“Are you sure we’ll beat him? What if we don’t make it?”

“We’re going to make it, Peighton. I promise you we’ll make it.”

They drove for hours, the two huddled together in the backseat as they flew down the interstate, passing cars at lightning speed. No matter how much Clay assured her, Peighton couldn’t calm the unease that sat in her core. If Frank got ahold of her son, the way he’d gotten ahold of Todd, she might never see him again. She wanted so badly to call Frank, to make him assure her that she had it all wrong, but Clay told her not to. It would only give him the heads up that they were coming for him.

When they finally arrived in Louisiana, and then in New Orleans, a small bit of hope washed over her. Kyle’s flight hadn’t landed yet, they’d been tracking it online. The officer pulled into the airport, slowing down at the entrance. They climbed out of the car, Peighton’s limbs feeling numb and unused.

“Thanks, Duncan,” Clay thanked the officer. “I owe you one.”

The officer nodded. “Anytime. I hope your boy’s okay,” he told Clay, and Peighton couldn’t help but realize she liked the way that sounded. Her boy. Not Frank’s. Hers.

Clay shut the door and they walked into the airport. Peighton gasped as she looked around, seeing cops in every corner.

“There are so many,” she said in awe.

“We protect our own,” Clay said simply. “Now, let’s go get our boy.” He held up the phone, showing that the plane was landing. They ran, their feet pounding the hard, concrete floors. Peighton’s legs felt like butter but she couldn’t stop. They shoved past people, making their way through lines for restaurants and sleeping people on the floor of the layover areas. Her body needed to hold her son.

When they finally made it to his gate, Peighton’s eyes searched the crowd. She looked for his golden hair, his perfect skin, tall, lanky body. “Kyle,” she whispered softly. “Where are you?”

“Frank!” Clay yelled, rushing away from her. Peighton looked over, realizing Frank was standing a mere ten feet away from them. Seeing Peighton and Clay, and realizing they weren’t happy to see him, he took off, running the opposite way. Clay leapt on top of him, parting the crowd. Peighton looked around, searching for the other officers to help him, but they were nowhere in sight.

Frank was able to push Clay off of him easily as he was over double his size. Clay lunged at him, punching him square in the jaw. Frank shoved him down, his eyes locking with Peighton’s for a second before he kicked Clay in the stomach and turned to run. Clay stood up, holding his stomach and attempting to run after him.

“Clay,” Peighton yelled, trying to stop him. About that time, a few of the officers came into her eyeline. She began jumping up and down, pointing the direction that Frank had run. The officers, noticing her, quickly headed the way she was directing them.

“Mom?” she heard his voice, his beautiful voice, behind her and turned to see him. In that moment, nothing else mattered. She grasped his neck, collapsing to the ground in all out sobs. He sank to the ground with her. “What’s wrong?” he asked her, his voice shaking.

She couldn’t answer, nothing but sobs coming out of her as she held her son, breathing in his scent. She kissed his face, his head, his hands, tears pouring down her cheeks. He hugged her tight, allowing her to continue crying. “It’s okay, Mom. I’m okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”